Flying can be stressful enough, but if you have to deal with uncomfortable bloating, gas, and dehydration, it can soon turn much worse.
So it’s best to steer clear of certain foods and drinks before your flight, including gas-producing foods, foods high in sodium, foods that cause bloating, and drinks that cause dehydration.
Note that everything in this article applies to what you should avoid eating before your flight, whether that be on the day or the night before, as well as what you should eat and drink on the day, whether that be for breakfast, the night before, and on the day.
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If you have a flight to catch, you should definitely avoid gas-producing foods, which include complex carbohydrates and foods high in fiber.
This is because these foods can be challenging for the body to digest fully, resulting in bloating and abdominal discomfort.
The main culprits to avoid include:
- Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, despite all being healthy.
- Beans: Kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas
You should also make sure that you avoid sodium-rich foods because they can lead to water retention, which can again result in bloating and discomfort when you’re on the plane.
Add to this the fact that as foods high in sodium also result in dehydration, the low humidity levels in plane cabins will only make you more dehydrated.
- Processed Snacks: Chips, pretzels, and crackers
- Salty Meals: Fast food, fried food, packaged microwaveable meals
- High-Sodium Condiments: Soy sauce, ketchup, and salad dressings
Foods That Cause Bloating
While the foods already covered can lead to bloating, the following foods are the worst culprits, so you will definitely want to avoid them before flying.
- Onions and Garlic: Onions and garlic contain fructans, which is a type of carbohydrate that some people find hard to digest.
- High-Fiber Foods: Beans, lentils, broccoli, and whole grains
Dehydrating and Carbonated Drinks
All the following drinks either have dehydrating effects and/or act as diuretics, which means that they will make you go to the bathroom more.
While you should avoid them in any case, if you’re not sitting in the aisle, you will definitely want to make an extra effort to avoid them otherwise you will have to keep on bothering the people sitting next to you to go to the bathroom.
- Carbonated Drinks: Soda, sparkling water, and other fizzy beverages
- Caffeinated Drinks: Coffee, tea, and energy drinks
- Alcohol: Wine, spirits, beer, cocktails
What to Eat & Drink Before Your Flight
Considering how common the above foods are, you’re probably wondering what there is left for you to eat and drink before your flight.
Thankfully, you still have many delicious, healthy choices.
- Proteins: Lean meats, fish, tofu, and legumes will keep you full and provide some much-needed energy once you have landed after those long flights.
- Healthy Carbohydrates: Healthy, complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables release energy slowly, preventing blood sugar spikes and crashes.
- Moderate Fats: Avocados, nuts, and olive oil will keep you full and help your body absorb essential nutrients.
- Snacks: Healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, carrot sticks, apple slices, granola bars and yogurt will help keep your energy levels steady during the flight.
The only drink I recommend consuming is water – and lots of it- as it is your best bet to help combat the plane’s dry cabin air and minimize the risk of dehydration.
Having said that, herbal tea bags can also be useful to bring.
Fennel and peppermint aid digestion; ginger can ease nausea and motion sickness associated with flying; and chamomile can help you relax if you’re a nervous flyer.
Best Times to Eat Before Your Flight
Timing your meals right can make a big difference in how you feel during your flight, whether you’re flying short-haul or long-haul.
- Short Flights: For shorter flights, it’s a good idea to have a light meal or snack two to three hours before your flight. You should opt for easily digestible foods that won’t leave you feeling overly full.
- Long-Haul Flights: For longer flights, you should have a more substantial meal three to four hours before take-off that includes proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to keep you full and reduce the urge to reach for those less healthy in-flight options.
- Red-Eye Flights: If you’re taking a red-eye flight and plan to sleep on the plane, aim for a light dinner a few hours before boarding. Avoid caffeine or sugary foods close to your departure, as they can make it harder to sleep.
- Layovers: If you have a layover, nourishing options that won’t cause bloating or discomfort during your next flight should be your go-to.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).